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Motorola Xoom finally becomes available

Motorola Xoom has finally become available, after making an major early impression with a strong feature set. The 10-inch has strong software (Google's Android 3.0 OS) and strong hardware (Nvidia's speedy dual-core Tegra 2 chip).

This is the first Android 3.0 tablet, and can lay a serious challenge to Apple's iPad. A spate of 7-inch screens with Android 2.2 (Froyo) such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab couldn't dent Apple's dominance.

 The problem? The tablet is expensive, priced at $800 on the Motorola store, and $600 on Verizon Wireless, with a two year contract. The iPad starts at $499, and though the iPad's specifications may be weaker,Xoom's barrier of entry is a lot higher.

The Xoom has a camera in the front and the back. It runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor. It's pretty light, weighing a pound. The battery life is about 10 hours on video or Web browsing, but those numbers are usually simulated. A more realistic battery life could be between 5-7 hours.

The tablet will play back hi-def content, thanks to Nvidia's on-chip GeForce graphics core. Apple's iPad is capable of 720p at best. And yes, the device is Flash compatible.

The Android 3.0 OS is a pretty impressive piece of software, and is closely tied to the cloud, or data residing on the Internet. Google has insisted that the inner workings of this software are different from its smartphone variants such as Froyo.

The interface is a bit different than Froyo, with a toolbar at the bottom. Icons on the frontpage can provide access to Android Market or Gmail. Stickies can also be posted on the front page, which can list e-mail in real time.

The OS also is capable of multitasking, and includes a new navigation scheme for users to switch between applications. A new notification system shows tweets or Facebook updates on the toolbar.

The OS includes a new animation framework, geared towards making the tablet a 3D/hi-def gaming device.

But with iPad 2 reportedly due in a few weeks, how long will Xoom hold its advantage? Apple has apparently viewed the market closely and learned, and will be building some amazing new features in iPad 2, including a camera and dual-core processor.

The tablet market's just getting interesting.